A few years ago, every time I’d go to Wal-Mart, I’d see the Porygon-Z GX Box on the shelf next to all the other Pokémon TCG products that were available at the time. Part of me always wanted it—because yippee, my favorite Pokémon had an official TCG product with a jumbo-sized promo card.
But every time, I talked myself out of it. What did I need a Porygon-Z card and a handful of booster packs for? I didn’t even play the card game at the time. Not since I was a kid—and even then I didn’t really play, I just had a weak collection of mostly commons and made a couple bad trades on the school playground, same as everyone else at the time.
I did have a Base Set Charizard, though. Still do.
But I should have known better. I should have known that eventually, my undying love for the entire Porygon family would lead me down the path of no return. I should have known that after a few years of my partner occasionally buying a booster pack here and there for fun, we’d both eventually jump head-first into full-blown TCG playing and collecting mania.
Years of having Porygon as my computer background, my phone background, as a decal on my Nintendo 3DS, as a limited edition plush I imported from Japan, on multiple shirts in my wardrobe… The only thing missing from my sheer Porygon fandom was the trading cards.
And so in August 2022, I made a spreadsheet checklist of every Porygon, Porygon2, and Porygon-Z card in the history of the English Pokémon TCG, and I started my hunt from almost nothing.
(Almost nothing because, next to my original Base Set Charizard card, I also had my original Cool Porygon promo card that I got with the Nintendo 64 + Pokémon Stadium bundle, forever ago. And one or two other random Porygon cards I had picked up for fun at a vintage toy store a few years earlier.)
I bought myself a light blue binder from Staples and named it “The Beak.”
From Base Set through Sword & Shield: Lost Origin, I had 110 different cards I needed to find. I’m not going to bore you with the details of my search for every single one of those cards. Instead, here’s a trivia sampling of some of the more obscure card variants on the list.
Covering All My Bases
Many Pokémon card collectors know that there are a few different versions of the cards from the Base Set. There’s shadowless 1st Edition (the most valued of them all), shadowless Unlimited (second highest valued), shadowed Unlimited (the kind that most people had)… But did you know there was a fourth variation?
Commonly known as the “4th Print Run,” this edition changed the copyright line on the bottom of the cards from “©1999 Wizards” to “©1999-2000 Wizards”
Wow. Amazing. What a novelty.
… Except it actually is, to me. I know it’s silly, and the copyright line is such a minor difference on the card face, but I did say every Porygon card. I am nothing if not committed to the bit.
Anyway, since most popular card-selling websites don’t distinguish between Unlimited cards and 4th Print cards (I’m looking at you, tcgplayer.com), I got my 4th Print Base Set Porygon on ebay.
Did you know that cards in the EX series of sets in third generation (that’s everything from EX Ruby & Sapphire in 2003 to EX Power Keepers in 2007) had mysterious serial codes in tiny print in their bottom left corners?
To this day, no one knows what the purpose of those codes was. (Citation: the Bulbapedia articles for every single one of those sets.) But the important thing for us today is, in EX Ruby & Sapphire through EX Delta Species, certain card rarities had multiple possible serial codes.
Common cards had 3 different possible codes, Uncommon cards had 2 possible codes, and Rare cards, thankfully, had only 1. Reverse holographic cards, even more thankfully, always used the same code out of all of a card’s possible codes.
Porygon cards appears in a handful of these sets:
- Porygon (EX FireRed & LeafGreen #47) – Uncommon (2 codes)
- Porygon (EX Unseen Forces #69) – Common (3 codes)
- Porygon (EX Delta Species #80) – Common (3 codes)
- Porygon2 (EX Unseen Forces #12) – Rare (1 code)
- Porygon2 (EX Delta Species #25) – Rare (1 code)
So, that’s 10 different codes, plus 5 reverse holographic versions for a total of 15 different Porygon variant cards from the EX era.
Most card selling websites don’t care about this level of minutiae, so once again, ebay to the rescue. Thank goodness for listing photos! I would have hated if I had to buy a bunch of blind copies of a common/ uncommon card (for $1-2 each, because let’s not forget shipping) and hope that I get all the code variants I need.
Instead, I had to scour dozens of ebay listings in excruciating detail, make sure the listing photos were high enough resolution to check the code, make sure the listing photos weren’t stock photos of the card, make sure the listing descriptions specified that the photos weren’t stock photos, that you’d get the exact item pictured… and then hope no one lied.
I got pretty lucky. I received all the right code variants on my first attempt, unlike other people I’ve heard of who collect different EX era code variants. (I didn’t have the same luck in my simultaneous quest to collect every Dunsparce card, sadly. Actually, I’ve had some really bad luck with my Dunsparce quest. But that’s a story for another day.)
For a complete list of different serial codes on EX series cards, click here.
Many people who aim to collect every card for a specific Pokémon also try to collect that Pokémon’s cameo appearances on the artwork of other cards. The Porygon family has only two cameo appearances in the entire history of the game, both of them on Trainer cards:
Two cards, each with a normal version and a reverse holographic version. It should be easy to find all those… Right?
Did you know that the winners of each year’s TCG World Championships have their decklists immortalized and published as promo products for other players to buy? These World Championship Decks have a different card back, so they aren’t tournament legal cards, but they’re still a cool collectible
The 2011 World Championship Deck “Megazone,” based on the winning deck by Gustavo Wada, contains 4 copies of Pokémon Reversal.
For anyone reading this blog post because you want to collect every Porygon card yourself, be warned that the 2011 World Championship Pokémon Reversal is BY FAR the hardest card to find.
Other Porygon cards might be expensive, other Porygon cards might be in low-but-constant supply, but this one? You would be lucky to catch a glimpse of it in an ebay listing once every few months. You’ll see the 2004 World Championships version of the card, with Mudkip in its artwork, so often that you’ll begin to despise that memetic little axolotl. It taunts you, not even deigning to look directly at you, while Porygon2 and its Feraligatr friend are nothing but a distant dream. Perhaps this is the true Pokémon reversal.
I did find a copy eventually… that I had to import from England to the United States. Global shipping fees might hurt, but they’re nothing compared to an empty slot in a binder.
The Holographic Universe
At this point in my collection journey, I had obtained all the low-hanging fruit—all the cheap cards, the recent cards, the commons. Some of the quirky variants listed above, too. But, it all felt a little… impersonal.
Each of these cards was printed tens of thousands of times—maybe even hundreds, I don’t know—exactly the same way. Every copy of non-reverse-holographic “Porygon (SS: Lost Origin #140)” is printed to look the same as every other copy, and that goes for most of the rest of these cards, too. So, how can I add a personal touch to a collection of mass market cardboard?
Enter holo swirls.
All holographic cards from Base Set 2 through the end of 4th generation, and various promo cards since then, use the “Cosmos” holo pattern. If you’re familiar with Pokémon cards from back in the day, you’ve probably seen this holo pattern before. It’s the one with lots of dots and blobs and swirls that change color when you look at the card at different angles.
No two Cosmos holo cards are the same, because the placement of each card on the foiling sheet at the printing factory is seemingly random. And see those nice swirls on the Dragonite and Lugia cards above? Most Cosmos holo cards don’t even have any swirls, so cards with well-placed swirls are especially sought after by the most obsessive collectors.
There are 13 different Porygon cards that can have holo swirls:
- Cool Porygon (Wizards Black Star Promos #15)
- Porygon (HGSS Black Star Promos HGSS22)
- Porygon2 (Neo Revelation #12) – 1st Edition, Unlimited
- Dark Porygon2 (Neo Destiny #8) – 1st Edition, Unlimited
- Porygon2 (EX Unseen Forces #12)
- Porygon2 (HGSS Black Star Promos HGSS23)
- Porygon-Z (DP: Great Encounters #6)
- Porygon-Z LV.X (DP: Majestic Dawn #100)
- Porygon-Z (DP Black Star Promos DP35)
- Porygon-Z (HS: Triumphant #7)
- Porygon-Z (SM: Burning Shadows #105a)
The last one on the list, “Porygon-Z (SM: Burning Shadows #105a),” deserves special mention. A blister pack promo, it’s the only Porygon card after gen 4 that uses (the modern version of) the Cosmos holo pattern. Which means that card’s swirls are going to look a little different from the rest:
The modern version of the Cosmos holo pattern has two types of swirls: one that looks like a more refined evolution of the original swirl pattern, and one that’s… literally a line in a coiled swirl shape. Okay, I’ll admit, I’m a little biased around which type I prefer, but they’re still both pretty neat and add a lot to a card’s identity.
As of the day I’m writing this post, so far I’ve managed to obtain (whether through purchases or trades) 108 out of the 110 unique Porygon cards currently in existence. I have no doubt I’ll find the remaining 2 eventually, but as always I’m at the mercy of supply and demand in the collectibles market. (With the emphasis on the ‘supply’ part, obviously.)
I’ve also started working on complete card collections for several of my other favorite Pokémon: Dunsparce, Breloom, Mawile, Manectric, Klefki. (Sorry, Umbreon; you may be one of my favorites, but you have too many nonsensically expensive cards. That goes for you too, Blaziken.)
It’s been a fun journey, and I’m almost disappointed it’s nearly over. But on the other hand, I’m excited for the collection to be complete because I’m waiting for that to happen before I share any photos of it. (Haha! Did you read this post hoping to see pictures? Guess you’ll have to wait for the sequel!)
Wow, what a journey! Also, I really like that Lapras holo swirl photo you posted.